Legal Question in Business Law in California

Iím an unlicensed handyman and was hired by an attorney to perform improvement on his home. I gave verbal bid on two jobs, one for $500 and the other for $200 plus an unknown amount for the cost of materials on both jobs, which would be supported on invoicing with sales tickets for purchase of materials at my expense. Before the attorney hired me, he understood Iím unlicensed and my oral explanation that after work begins, there might be unforeseen circumstances making it necessary to increase the amount of the original bid to complete the job. After I started the work, I gave the attorney an oral report everyday of my work progress. After the jobs were completed the attorney praised me how good my craftmanship was and he received three invoices because of unforeseen circumstances after work began: 1. $500 for job one 2. $500 for job two instead of $200 and 3. $425 for the cost of materials. In what appears to be an attempt to avoid payment for services rendered, the attorney claims Iím violating Business & Profession Code Section 7031 and Section 7048 because Iím an unlicensed contractor piecing together aspects of the same job. What can I do to get paid the aggregate amount of what is due for services rendered?

Asked on 9/28/13, 10:51 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

Carl Starrett Law Offices of Carl H. Starrett II

It sounds like you may have been set up. Even people who knowingly hire an unlicensed contractor can get out of paying if the job requires a license.

I looked at Business & Profession Code Section 7048 and agree with the attorney that you violated that section and are not legally entitled to payment. However, a small claims judge might rule in your favor and you do have that option available to you.

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Answered on 9/28/13, 11:04 pm
Jeannette Darrow Jeannette C.C. Darrow, Attorney at Law

Nothing. Unfortunately, it sounds like you got scammed by an attorney who understood the law. As an unlicensed contractor, you can not do more than $500 of work, including materials and labor, without a license, even if you try to give your customer more than one invoice, each for less than $500. Time to cut your losses on that job and move on to other paying jobs that are actually under $500 including labor and materials.

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is cracking down on unlicensed contractors, and the laws are in place to protect licensed contractors. I don't think there is a court around that would allow you to get paid on this job, even if you sued. The law is pretty clear on this subject.

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Answered on 9/28/13, 11:09 pm
Joel Selik

I think it would be worth a shot. The small claims judge may apply the fairness or equity principle of equity/fairness. If not at least you will get your day in court. Caution, what you did may also be considered a crime. The Contractor's board is well know for setting up criminal stings.

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Answered on 9/29/13, 9:17 am

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